What will Ireland’s abortion referendum change?

25 May 2018

On Saturday 26 May, the Republic of Ireland’s polls will have closed and votes will be counted in a much anticipated, controversial and strongly fought referendum, in which the decision will be made on whether abortions should be legalised throughout the country.

 

Currently, abortions can only take place in Ireland in extreme circumstances, say when the life of the mother is threatened. It is a view taken by most of the country's Catholic population that life begins at conception and so 'killing' a baby is morally sinful and should not take place. However, whether Catholic or Protestant or otherwise, it seems the nation is deeply divided over the issue.

 

The Irish government’s stance is equally complicated, with some members of the Irish Parliament arguing that abortion is wrong and that there should not be abortion clinics in the country. On the other hand, some believe legalisation is the correct way forward, a view shared by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Those on the 'yes' side, such as the Taoiseach, believe abortion should ultimately be the mother's choice and not the decision of the state.

 

In 2010, the Irish abortion rate was 4.5 per 1000 women aged 15 to 44. Some women who cannot travel elsewhere sometimes purchases pills from the internet, which is outlawed by the government and customs. For those who travel, some sceptics have pointed out that Britain is currently deciding the laws on behalf of Irish women and doing so without consulting the Irish government. This has encouraged the Deputy Premier (Taniste) Simon Coveney to adopt the Brexit mantra of 'Take Back Control' and deny women the right to travel to another country.

 

From the calling of the referendum to the closing stages of the campaign, protesters gathered in Dublin to argue on both sides of the argument. They all understand that if yes wins, it will be a moment of major change in Ireland. Some pro-repeal campaigners have contended themselves with the possibility that the laws will still become more lenient if 'no' is to win. After a long and arduous campaign, the result will be known soon enough.

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